The trial of the former governor of Ogun state, Otunba Gbenga Daniel began Monday at the Ogun state High Court sitting in Isabo, Abeokuta, Ogun State, southwest Nigeria.
However, the presiding judge, Justice Olanrewaju Mabekoje reserved ruling on admissibility of a bank statement tendered by Daniel’s counsel, Prof. Taiwo Osipitan.
Daniel was re-arraigned on Monday 16 April, 2012 by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on a 38-count charge bordering on breach of trust, fraudulent conversion of public landed property to personal use, failure to declare his assets truthfully and stealing over N211 milion.
In the charge sheet, the EFCC accused the former governor of diverting over N211 million in several tranches while serving as governor of the state between May 2003 and 29 May, 2011.
Daniel was later granted bail in the sum of N500 million with two sureties in like sum.
The EFCC in its charge sheet had accused Daniel of engaging in acts of stealing and bribery, which, according to the commission, were carried out through companies that the former governor either owned or had interests in.
The companies alleged to have been used to perpetrate the alleged fraudulent acts, according to EFCC, include Kresta Laurel, Conference Hotel, GLD Consults, Silver Springs Investments, Millennium Parks, Blue Chapel and Master Line company.
It argued that the offences were contrary to and punishable under Sections 439, 393, 434 of the Criminal Code Laws of Ogun State, 2006, while it contended that the offences were also punishable under Section 27 (b) (3) and Section 10 of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences (ICPC) Act No 5 of 2000.
At the trial this morning, counsel to EFCC, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) cross-examined one of the prosecution witnesses, a staff of Skye Bank, Adebukola Babatunde who led in evidence over the alleged illegal lodgement of some money by Daniel into Blue Chapel company account .
Adebukola, who claimed to be the bank Business Development Manager, told the court that he managed the bank account which was opened in 2004 when he was employed by the bank in 2007.
He however told the court that, though Daniel was the sole signatory to the account, he did not lodge any money either in cash or incheque into the account.
After the cross-examination, Jacobs tendered a certified true copy of Blue Chapel statement of account which was not objected to by Daniel’s lead counsel and was admitted as exhibit 1 by the court.
However, attempt by Prof. Taiwo Osipitan to tender from the bar a copy of the statement of account extracted from the proof of evidence was vehemently resisted by EFCC’s counsel, arguing that it was not admissible.
Osipitan, during the cross-examination, had asked Adebukola to compare a statement of account in the pool of evidence and exhibit 1, insisting that there were contradictions in the statement of account.
Adebukola, however, confirmed that the two statements of the account were genuine, prompting Osipitan to seek to tender it before the EFCC’s counsel objected it on the ground that he did not follow the due process in tendering documents.
According to Osipitan, “the document emanated from the prosecution, and it was the basis with which he sought the leave of court. So, if the prosecution counsel now comes around and says it is not genuine, it means he forged the document.”
Osipintan in his submission therefore urged the court to allow the document, describing it as a public document.
In his objection, Jacobs, who quoted several authorities include section 84 and 89 of the 1999 Constitution, described it as computer generated document, which, according to him cannot be admissible.
According to Jacobs, “proof of evidence is not the evidence. Before the document could be admitted by the court, some requirements must be met which include certificate to identify the document.”
After listening to both parties, the presiding judge reserved the ruling till Tuesday 5 June, while saying that the trial would continue on Thursday 7 June, 2012.
Speaking with our correspondent after the court proceedings, Daniel’s lead counsel, Osipitan described the case as lacking in substance, adding that “there is nothing in the case. The legal team of the former governor is prepare and would ensure victory for him.”
In his own comment, EFCC ‘s counsel, Rotimi Jacobs hinted that the commission would still parade more witnesses in the course of the trial, saying, “none of the witnesses complained of intimidation or threat to life since the last appearance in court.”
By Abiodun Onafuye/Abeokuta